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A celebration of the power of music: Music Mountain Festival starts 95th season

"We all know about the therapeutic power of music, but to me, the music played at the festival goes beyond that," Music Mountain Summer Festival Artistic Director Oskar Espina Ruiz told The Berkshire Edge.

Falls Village, Conn. — The Music Mountain Summer Festival starts its 95th season on Saturday, June 2, and will run 16 consecutive weekends until September 16.

According to its website, the festival was started in 1930 by Jacques Gordon, who was the Chicago Symphony’s concertmaster from 1921 to 1930. Gordon was also the founding first violinist of the Gordon String Quartet.

Oskar Espina Ruiz has been the artistic director for the festival since 2016. “The venue’s Gordon Hall looks the same as it did when it was built in the 1930s,” Ruiz told The Berkshire Edge. “When you come up here for a performance, it feels like you are going back in time. The hall is designed to look like the inside of a violin. It feels magical when we are inside of this ‘violin’ listening to a string quartet.”

Ruiz described the music played at the festival as “transformative,” which he said is the reason why this year’s festival is dedicated to “the power of music.” “We all know about the therapeutic power of music, but to me, the music played at the festival goes beyond that,” Ruiz said. “When 9/11 happened, we were all everywhere with concerts and coming together, and mourning with music. It is music—that is what brought us together again. To me, the power of music is very central to what humans are all about.”

When asked what has allowed the festival to last for so many years, Ruiz answered that Nicholas Gordon, the son of Jacques Gordon, would give whenever he was asked. Nicholas Gordon was president of Music Mountain from 1974 until he died in 2017. “He grew up as a child on Music Mountain and came back to be the president of the organization,” Ruiz said. “He always said that the festival’s longevity is because Music Mountain is a uniquely beautiful place that is focused on chamber music and jazz. In a way, Music Mountain has become the place to go for any professional string quartet. Because of the festival’s specialization, there’s a uniqueness to the venue that has made it a specialized place that everybody wants to come back to.”

The opening concert on June 2, at 3 p.m., is a benefit featuring musician Benjamin Hochman and friends from the Metropolitan Opera, including Ben Bowman on violin and Joel Noyes on cello.

The concert is scheduled to include a performance of the Ludwig Van Beethoven, Rebecca Clarke, and Franz Schubert piano trios.

Other concerts on this year’s festival lineup include Saturday evening jazz concerts and Sunday chamber music concerts. “I think the beauty of music all lies in the fact that everybody will feel it differently,” Ruiz said. “I am sent on a trip whenever I hear music. It makes my imagination fly. Sometimes there is a narrative in the music that is very clear and tells a story. But often the language is not words or situations as the music opens up. Sometimes the narrative in music goes through emotions, and we imagine an imaginative play that is created in our minds, and it ends up being different in each person’s mind, all for the same piece of music. It’s amazing how musicians can bring all of these pieces of music to life.”

For more information about the Music Mountain Festival, including its schedule of performances, visit its website.

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